Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The history of this extraordinary dance company has been charted by three Artistic Directors: Alvin Ailey the founder in 1958, the great Judith Jamison for 21 years, and Robert Battle, who is now distinguishing himself as a worthy successor. Assisting him is Masazumi Chaya.

Between them and their exquisitely trained, athletically superb dancers who exhibit a generous helping of “attitude,” every offering has the capacity to amaze, amuse and delight.

Opening night began with a pastiche of dance numbers that constitute “The Season” at City Center. Jazz of all ages – from Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, to the sounds of Billie Holliday, then Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn are set for dance. Some are solo performances, others a chorus of brightly costumed high-steppers whirling to the music. Not a misstep anywhere! Their faithfulness to the often complicated choreography and discipline are a joy to behold.

What blew everyone away was in the second half. “Ella,” a premiere in 2008, is danced to “Airmail Special” by Ella Fitzgerald. Actually “Scat singing” throughout, it casts two women keeping the beat perfectly in unison and con mucho gusto as the audience started applauding halfway through the performance. So exciting and mesmerizing was this piece that it took more than five minutes for the crowd to calm down enough to get on to the “Revelations;” the great Ailey classic, without which no opening can exist.

Robert Battle can take the bow for “Ella,” and will no doubt be doing so for years to come.

The point is: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is a “cut above,” with excellent management, a brilliant company and fresh ideas. Most of the dancers hail from the 50 states, with one or two exceptions. Makes one PROUD!

Barbara Tober



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